Lessons in Cooking Part 1: Living Life
The culinary influences and tricks I've picked up
I love food. I have true passion for the vast variety of spices, ingredients and flavors that we have such an easy access to these days. I am always on the lookout for new dishes and cuisines. And America, being such a wonderful melting pot of cultures, makes me feel right at home. Then, when I travel, the most important item on the agenda is food. Planned my excursions? Yes. But more importantly — where will I eat?
Over the years, I have learned so much about food (and what makes good food!) from a variety of sources. Of course, the first person to instill in me a sense of joy in cooking was my mother. She just has that magic touch, and anything she makes is simply divine. She loves to try out new things. I have distinct memories of her making pizza from scratch in this small portable electric oven — way back when I was just a kid. And even well before she and my dad could afford to buy that small portable oven, she would bake cakes in a pressure cooker! She was the first person whom I saw experimenting with Asian flavors in her Indian kitchen as she cooked up chicken corn soup and sweet and sour chicken when no one around us knew what it was. I still use her nifty trick for stirring in eggs with a fork in the hot chicken corn soup — so it assumes a fine stringy look and texture (becoming one with the soup) rather than turning into a big blob of egg in the middle. As a kid, I watched her beat eggs and heavy cream for the creamiest scrambled eggs ever. Oh! By the way, she was doing all this over 3 decades ago!
I always thought that my dad is the perfect complement to her because he just loves to eat! Simple as that! Jokes aside and to his credit, he is also very savvy about the cuts of meat (and their uses) from various parts of an animal. It was his task to go to the butcher shop while mom prepped for the big meal back at home. At our home we mostly cooked goat and chicken.
I strongly believe that if you have an inherent passion for cooking and for good food — then you tend to pick up tidbits of information from every food-related experience you ever have in your life. I have learned little tips and tricks from aunts, and uncles, cousins and friends. Tips like, when cooking certain vegetables, the longer you cook — the deeper and sweeter the flavor. Onions are a great example of that. I also feel that way about bell peppers. So when I make Sofrito for my Paella, I cook the onions, bell peppers and garlic for as long as I can. The deep color and rich flavor is always so worth it.
In the next few articles in these series, I will be exploring some other influences in my food-centric life. So stay tuned!